It’s Election Season! Tools to Support Electoral Advocacy

With the 2018 midterm election less than 70 days away, many electoral advocacy efforts are in full swing. There are many electoral activities that non-profit organizations CAN organize or engage in legally. Here are a few resources to help you reach out, take action, and bring your issue into the limelight.

  • The Town Hall project researches every district and state for public events with members of Congress and shares their findings to promote participation in the democratic process. The Town Hall Project empowers constituents across the country to have face-to-face conversations with their elected representatives.
  • In addition to Congressional Representative events, The Town Hall project shares information about events for Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, and Virginia State Legislatures.
  • Families USA developed an advocacy guide with six key questions to ask Congressional candidates about health care.
  • Use ACS’ Do’s and Don’ts of Electoral Advocacy to understand what your 501(c)3 organization can and can NOT do when conducting nonpartisan electoral advocacy and ballot initiative activities.
  • ACS’ guide to Building an Effective Electoral Strategy presents a 4-step process that will help you build that electoral strategy by walking you through the internal and external elements an effective strategy must entail.
  • ACS’ Guide to Developing a Successful Get Out The Vote is a step-by-step how-to guide filled with tips, tools, frequently asked questions, and other supporting materials.
  • Want to host your own forum for local, state, or federal candidates? Use ACS’ Guide to Hosting a Successful Candidate Forum. Hosting a candidate forum is an opportunity to bring important topics to the forefront of a local or state election. These forums are a great way to engage the community, stakeholders, and candidates in a discussion about the need and importance of your issue.

Whatever action you decide to take this election season, Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) is here to support you. Contact us at


ACS nominated for two Excellence in Advocacy Awards for State Issue Campaigns

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) is pleased to share that both its President Lori McClung and Vice-President Scarlett Bouder have been nominated for separate Excellence in Advocacy Awards. They join 20 other nominees in the Excellence in a State Issue Campaign award category, which is described as an effort wherein the advocate(s) successfully impacted the outcome of a state or local legislative or regulatory problem or opportunity on behalf of their cause, issue, client, organization or coalition. The award will be presented at the Professional Women in Advocacy Conference on October 9, 2018.

The first round of nominations will be judged by their peers – women working in government relations, advocacy, public affairs, law, activism and campaigns. Finalists will be judged by the Bryce Harlow Foundation who will select one awardee for each award category. The Bryce Harlow Foundation is dedicated to enhancing the quality of professional advocacy and increasing the understanding of its essential role in the development of sound public policy.

Click here to see the full press release. For more information on the nominees, the awards, and the conference please visit

Fueling Workforce Development through Local Philanthropy

The Philanthropy Roundtable is America’s largest network of donors united by desire to protect philanthropic freedom, uphold donor intents and strengthen the free society through charitable giving. Recently, the organization held its Better Skills, Better Jobs conference in Dallas – bringing together philanthropic organizations to discuss the role of philanthropy in workforce development.

National Fund for Workforce Solutions President and CEO Fred Dedrick moderated a panel entitled Better Skills, Better Jobs: Philanthropic Strategies with Andrea Glispie of Pathways to Work; Michelle Thomas of JPMorgan Chase; and Wende Burton of the Communities Foundation of Texas. The group discussed a new model of workforce development and its potential to increase the impact of philanthropy.

Each panelist talked about the way their organizations have used philanthropic investments to improve job quality, raise employee satisfaction and address specific needs of the local workforce. The panel agreed that a successful workforce development model should focus on three key areas:

  • Partnership with industry
  • Connection to economic development
  • Reconsideration of the barriers of entry to the labor market

According to Dedrick, “…Foundations get together around the table and start comparing notes. And that collaboration changes the way they make investments locally.”

To learn more, watch the panel discussion here or read about it at the National Fund for Workforce Solutions’ website.

Philanthropic support is a critical for many workforce programs to help individuals find and keep work. Advocacy & Communication Solutions (ACS) works with both foundations and workforce entities to support policy change, develop advocacy and communication strategies, and build successful philanthropic platforms.

For example, with momentum behind Two Generational (2Gen) approaches and a focus on poverty reduction by the Detroit Mayor’s office, ACS helped Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (CSW) by researching and developing core and audience-specific messages and a strategy to advance 2Gen in Detroit.

ACS also created a plan and consistent messaging to help three Workforce Development Boards in North Carolina (Centralina, CharlotteWorks and Gaston County) leverage their board members as effective spokespersons to advance the boards as a go-to resource for the community.

Read more at the ACS website.

University Hospitals Extends Reach to Low-Income Neighborhoods

University Hospitals in Cleveland, OH, will launch an exciting medical-legal partnership (MLP) with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland this summer. It will open the doors to the Rainbow Center for Women and Children, serving two of Cleveland’s most underserved neighborhoods.

Crain’s Cleveland Business wrote about the partnership, which is funded by Cleveland law firm Benesch. Through this five-year partnership, lawyers will be available to help lower-income Cleveland families receive legal assistance for issues related to housing, immigration, education and family law. Low income families also benefit from neighborhood medical support that was previously unavailable in the Hough and Fairfax neighborhoods.

One goal of the MLP is to help families address and overcome the Social Determinants of Health – the societal factors that impact the health of a community.

According to a 2017 report by the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, of the modifiable factors impacting overall health, 20% are attributed to clinical care (i.e., healthcare quality and access); 50% are related to social determinants such as housing, transportation, education and employment; and 30% to health-related behaviors.

Maternal and child health and well-being are linked closely to the Social Determinants of Health. The MLP partnership may be valuable to local initiatives, such as First Year Cleveland, a consortium of non- and for-profit organizations determined to lower the Infant Mortality Rates in Cuyahoga County. In 2018, First Year Cleveland engaged Advocacy & Communication Solutions (ACS) to develop the initiative’s engagement and public policy plan.

Franklin County Child Care Providers to Meet Star-Rating Standards

As highlighted in a recent Columbus Dispatch article, Franklin County Department of Jobs and Family Services (FCDJFS) will spend more than $750,000 this year to train childcare providers in low-income communities through the Step Up to Quality (SUTQ) star rating system. This free training will allow providers to meet new state standards and maintain public funding.

By July 1, 2020, all publicly funded child care (PFCC) programs in Ohio must participate in the SUTQ rating system or they will lose their funding. Only one in four PFCC Franklin County providers currently meet those standards. If this mandate were put in place today, more than 22,000 children in the county  – and a total of 115,000 state wide – could lose their child care services.

Early childhood education has a direct impact on a child’s success in school and life, affecting their path into the workforce and out of poverty.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions (ACS) is a long-time client of FCDJFS, most recently leading the development of a public awareness campaign to help child care providers connect to the training; and to educate parents on the importance of quality care. Based on ACS-led research, two commercials were developed and can be viewed here and here.


Research Shows Intergenerational Benefits of Preschool

Many of us are familiar with the Perry Preschool or Abecedarian research that show the long-term impact that high-quality preschool can have on a child’s growth, development, and future. A new line of research goes deeper – beyond the children themselves – and looks at the impact of children whose parents received preschool education.

This research, “Breaking the Cycle? Intergenerational Effects of an Anti-Poverty Program in Early Childhood” cited striking data on the second-generation effects of preschool. Although the researchers said it’s too soon to conclude whether the second generation is no longer living in poverty and earning a good income, it showed that their offspring live significantly better in their young adult years than children of parents who did not attend preschool.


Among children whose mothers lived in a Head Start Community:

  • 90% graduated from high school
  • 69% attended some college
  • 13% became teen parents
  • 14% had been arrested or convicted

Conversely, among children whose mothers did NOT have access to Head Start:

  • 77% graduated from high school
  • 52% attended some college
  • 22% became teen parents
  • 30% had been arrested or convicted

Advocacy & Communication Solutions (ACS) is a subject matter expert in early childhood education and has helped numerous foundations, local and state governments, and nonprofits with communication, strategy development, advocacy, and capacity building in this area. ACS staff has seen first-hand the difference of a high quality early education by working with clients such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and those across the country in Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin.

Understanding Infant Mortality

The New York Times recently wrote about a crisis that has plagued the United States for more than two centuries: Infant Mortality – specifically among African American mothers, who are more than twice as likely to lose a child during pregnancy or the first year of life than non-black women. Black infants die at a rate of 11.3 per 1,000 babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies – creating a racial divide wider than the one that existed during slavery.

It’s difficult to understand these numbers – especially when presented with the fact that they span all ages and incomes. Serena Williams and J.R. Smith are just two people who have discussed their struggles with high-risk and premature births.

As the article states, “…the reasons for the black-white divide in both infant and maternal mortality have been debated by researchers and doctors for more than two decades.”

Extensive research by some of the country’s top medical institutions point to two crucial factors: systemic, societal racism and a longstanding racial bias in health care.

Dozens of major cities across America have committed to addressing these issues and improving the health of their mothers and children. Reducing Infant Mortality has become a top priority from the largest medical systems to the smallest community organizations.

Cleveland is one of those cities. A recent article in Cleveland Scene pointed out that in 2015, the Ohio Department of Health released a report that showed black babies were dying at three times the rate of white babies. The article showcases a non-profit organization called Birthing Beautiful Communities, which is working to provide education and care to women of color during and after their pregnancies.

  • In 2017, there were 119 child deaths in Cuyahoga County, down from 155 in 2015 and 128 in 2016.
  • 38% of total births are from black moms, and black babies make up 78% of all infant deaths.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions (ACS) was recently engaged by First Year Cleveland, a consortium of non- and for-profit organizations determined to lower the Infant Mortality Rates in Cuyahoga County. Through extensive research and in-depth planning, ACS has developed a three-year Engagement and Public Policy plan which delivers a comprehensive approach to reducing Infant Mortality among Cleveland families. ACS is proud to be a part of this valuable effort. Birthing Beautiful Communities is a grantee of First Year Cleveland.

New study shows healthcare in families is inter-related: kids receive recommended care when parents are insured

A recent article in Managed Healthcare Executive Magazine highlights a new study by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine that finds parental Medicaid enrollment is linked to an increase in pediatric well-child visits for children in low-income families. The study, published in Pediatrics, found that a parent being enrolled in Medicaid was associated with a 29 percentage point higher probability that low-income children received an annual well-child visit, compared to a child whose parent was not enrolled in Medicaid.

The authors consider several reasons why this may occur, including:

  • when parents receive Medicaid, their children may also be more likely to enroll in the program;
  • parental insurance coverage could result in improvement in family financial status, which can enable children’s healthcare use; and
  • when parents are able to enroll in insurance and engage with the health system for themselves, they may be more likely to engage in care-seeking for their children.

Regardless of the reasons, researchers suggest that efforts to expand Medicaid or other insurance eligibility for low-income parents could help promote the child’s receipt of critical, recommended preventative health care services.

“Healthcare use in families is inter-related, and policies and programs that consider the family as a whole may be more beneficial than those that target either children or their parents independently,” says lead study author Maya Venkataramani, MD.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions (ACS) has assisted recently helped several clients develop and/or implement strategy to increase awareness about important early childhood services. This includes mapping the landscape of health care advocacy efforts in New York for the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York, increasing awareness of pre-natal health care for mothers in Franklin County, Ohio, or developing language to support a Two-Generational approach in Detroit, Michigan.

Sweeping Changes to the Criminal Justice System on the Horizon

Criminal Justice Reform is getting an increasing level of attention nationally and in state capitals from coast to coast – from legislative fixes to ballot initiatives, addressing our criminal justice system is a hot topic and high priority across the political spectrum.

In Ohio, in part due to the Opioid crisis sweeping across the state, there are multiple efforts to address the issue. What we know about Ohio’s prison status:

  • Ohio has the 5th highest prison population, behind states with significantly larger populations (Texas, Florida, California,) and Georgia.
  • It cost $1.8 billion a year to operate Ohio’s prison systems.
  • Ohio prisons are designed to hold 38,600 people (currently at 130% capacity).
  • Average cost per inmate: $26,364 a year.
  • 1 in 4 of all people newly admitted to prison in Ohio are there for a drug offense.

*Statistics from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (

Advocates in Ohio are proposing a ballot initiative called the Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Amendment to divert low-level drug offenders away from prison and reinvesting the money saved in community rehabilitation programs and victims services.

Ohio is not alone. On the heels of reforms from states like Florida and California, several other states are proposing sweeping changes. Massachusetts’ criminal justice bill is awaiting the Governor’s signature. Six separate criminal justice bills are moving through Oklahoma’s legislature this session.

In addition to state-level efforts, Congress is working on a new bi-partisan criminal justice reform bill, which just passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. Media from Fox News to the New York Times are covering and supporting criminal justice reform efforts across the country.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC will continue to follow criminal justice reform efforts across the country.

Small towns and rural areas lag in economic and employment growth

A recent Brookings report highlights the divide between large metropolitan areas and small cities and rural areas. Smaller metropolitan areas with less than 250,000 people—representing 9 percent of the nation’s population—have lost ground in terms of economic and population growth. Rural areas had even greater declines in output and employment since 2010. There is some variability among states. For example, in New York, 95 percent of the state’s 2010 to 2016 employment growth emanated from large metro counties, in Ohio it was 62%, and in South Carolina it was just 9%. See here for 50-state data on the shares of states’ growth generated by large, medium, and small metropolitan areas as well as rural areas.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) has assisted the J. Marion Sims Foundation since 2016 in a variety of ways, including helping to design an ongoing community engagement effort and being a thought partner as the Foundation shifts their strategic direction. As a champion for the Lancaster, South Carolina region, the Foundation works collaboratively with other organizations to strategically address declines in economic growth and employment in their region. The Foundation is specifically focused on building a healthy community where all people have the opportunity to reach their full potential.